Friday, January 4, 2013

[Quest writer] Think locally, act globally by Sami Koponen


Think locally, act globally

I was given a task to write on "globalization". My take on it reflects my position as a Finnish roleplayer: a gamer from a small language area but with steady connections to overseas roleplaying scene.

Global from the day one

Finnish roleplaying scene has always been global. Lauri and Jyrki Tudeer started to import roleplaying games into Finland back in 1980s. Frank Mentzer's edition of Dungeons & Dragons (1983) was translated into Finnish in 1988. By the mid of 1990s we had 13 translated roleplaying games with loads of supplements. There was a decade of pause, but finally in 2004 translations were published again, this time the best picks from the indie scene.

Finnish scene was slower to go over the border. As far as I know, Taiga (1996) was the first Finnish game published in English. Others have followed in recent years so that today there are about eight RPGs in the global market made in Finland.

There were also roleplaying magazines which provided articles about playing the games, but also about international gaming conventions, corporation reports and news of untranslated RPG products. We had our own conventions, publishing houses, gaming stores and arguments about the right way to roleplay equivalent to the international scene – all this before the internet, which connects the whole gaming world today.

What it is for you?

One could argue that global roleplaying market has ruined local gaming cultures. Everyone is playing Dungeons & Dragons and cannot think of roleplaying in any other terms than those introduced by D&D. However, the same could be said about pretty much every facet of entertainment: cultural industry in the US provides the Western countries with music, television shows, movies, genre literature, games and even food. But instead of seeing it as a threat one could see it as a chance.

As local gamers we can only thank the roleplaying industry in the US. Without it we would never have been introduced to roleplaying in the first place. Sure, some folks would have invented roleplaying anyway, but it wouldn't have become a whole subculture. We received a ready-made product, the tools for creating cool campaigns and memorable gaming situations. A couple of decades later there was the Forge forum. It raised strong opinions and some Finnish roleplayers abhor it even today, but none can deny the great influence it had. Re-thinking roleplaying, new ideas about it and thriving self-publishing scene were all national consequences of connections to the international forum. Not everybody plays new games, but at least there are new and different games as alternatives.

Global market works both ways. Smaller national scenes separated by the language barriers haven't been just receiving but also giving. Oftentimes some of the most innovative games rise from small scenes and are made known through the global market. From the game designer's viewpoint, the global audience is a whole lot bigger than the local one, so it's easier to find the ones interested in a particular game. I'm pretty sure that Archipelago or De Profundis or Zombie Cinema are not the standard ways of gaming in their countries of origin.

Still thinking locally

In the end the mainstream way of roleplaying is face-to-face. Internet applications for remote gaming are gaining a good foothold, but I hope that also tomorrow the global gaming culture is made of local gaming cultures.

Therefore we should still be working for our local gaming culture. We should borrow the best ideas from abroad, but keep on developing them instead of just following them. In a balanced and active gaming culture we don't have to reject global gaming trends, but neither should we lose ourselves to them.

Afterword

I have written about the global roleplaying culture from a Finnish perspective. I have dealt with the issue in favourable terms. However, I'd be interested to hear whether my opinions are shared by others from other small language areas: have Polish, Swedish, Czechish or Hungarian roleplayers similar experiences?
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